Document 55684

volumE 19/no. 2 • ISSn: 1050-1835 • SPRInG 2008
Research Quarterly
a d va n c i n g s c i e n c e a n d p r o m o t i n g u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f t r a u m a t i c s t r e s s
Published by:
The National Center for PTSD
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Quarterly are available online at:
Editorial Members:
Editorial Director
Matthew J. Friedman,
Scientific Editor
Fran H. Norris, PhD
Managing Editor
Fred Lerner, DLS
Production Manager
Lisa Gover, BS Ed
Circulation Manager
Lee-Anne Chartier
National Center Divisions
White River Jct VT
Behavioral Science
Boston MA
Dissemination and Training
Menlo Park CA
Clinical Neurosciences
West Haven CT
West Haven CT
Pacific Islands
Honolulu HI
Women’s Health Sciences
Boston MA
U.S Department of Veterans Affairs
Treating PTSD and Related Symptoms in Children
Research Highlights
Although many children and adolescents (hereafter referred to as “children”) are resilient after traumat­
ic experiences, others develop a variety of emo­
tional and behavioral symptoms that can be severe and long-lasting. Researchers face unique forensic, developmen­
tal, assessment, and legal challenges in conduct­
ing treatment studies with traumatized children. In contrast to adults, independent verification of
certain traumatic experiences (e.g., child abuse) is usually required for participation in child treat­
ment research. Developmental level influences how
symptoms are assessed (e.g., via parent report, child report, consensus rating, observation, or other strat­
egies) and what domains are most relevant to assess (for example, PTSD vs. a non-diagnostic entity such as attachment). If the parent has personal PTSD symptoms, this may bias his or her reporting of the child’s symptoms; yet for children, parent report is
an essential part of assessment. Legal issues may provide daunting barriers to conducting research. For example, some jurisdictions require that both parents provide consent for treatment; when one parent perpetrated the trauma and denies that this occurred or refuses consent, his or her child will be eliminated from participation, thus potentially bias­
ing the sample. Despite these and other challenges, the empirical treatment literature for traumatized children has grown considerably since the first studies appeared
in the 1990s. It is also important to note that much of this treatment literature has been conducted in “real life” settings: schools, homes, inner-city clin­
ics, refugee camps, and war-torn countries. Some of these models have also been used for complex trauma presentations by community agency clini­
cians through the National Child Traumatic Stress Network ( and several state Judith A. Cohen, M.D.
Center for Traumatic Stress in
Children & Adolescents
Allegheny General Hospital
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
agencies and therefore have demonstrated local
feasibility for real world practice (Amaya-Jackson
& DeRosa, 2007).
This review is not comprehensive but rather
provides some highlights of the current treatment
outcome literature for treating childhood trauma,
focusing primarily on PTSD symptoms due to space
limitations. Other mental health symptoms and
resiliency factors (for example, attachment, social
skills, conduct problems, preventing placement dis­
ruption) are also important foci for treatment. Many
other outstanding studies have been conducted; a
comprehensive review of the empirical evidence
related to treatment of PTSD will soon be published
(Foa, Keane, Friedman & Cohen, in press).
Since development is such a central factor in child­
hood, treatments are grouped according to develop­
mental stage.
Treating Preschool Children: Two
Models that Work
Infants and toddlers experiencing trauma exhibit
a variety of symptoms, although those symptoms
may be more challenging to reliably assess in young
children. Because of very young children’s depen­
dence on their parents, it is especially critical to
include parents in treatment and to address parenting
issues as a focus in treatment. Two models that have
been tested for traumatized preschool children are
described here. Child-Parent Psychotherapy (Lieber­
man et al., 2005) is an attachment-based model that
uses the relationship between the child and parent
to address the child’s trauma symptoms. TraumaFocused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT, includes an active parent com­
ponent with a focus on improving parenting skills
and addressing maladaptive parent-child interactions.
Continued on page 2
Author’s Address: Medical Director, Center for Traumatic Stress in Children & Adolescents, Allegheny General Hospital,
4 Allegheny Center, 8th Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15212. E-mail address: [email protected]
Lieberman et al. (2005) randomized 75 preschool children and their
mothers who had experienced domestic violence to either Child
Parent Psychotherapy or case management. Child Parent Psycho­
therapy resulted in significantly greater improvement in children’s
and mothers’ PTSD symptoms (even though improvement in
mothers’ personal symptoms was not a direct target of treatment),
and significantly greater improvement in children’s behavioral
problems. Differences in child behavior problems were sustained
at the 6-month follow-up assessment; child PTSD symptoms were
not assessed at this follow-up due to lack of resources to conduct
follow-up interviews.
Cohen and Mannarino (1996) compared TF-CBT to Non-directive
Supportive Therapy for 86 preschool children ages 3-7 years old
who had experienced sexual abuse, and their non-abusive parents.
TF-CBT was superior in improving some PTSD symptoms that were
assessed by the Weekly Behavior Report, as well as sexual behav­
iors, total behavior problems, and internalized behavior symptoms.
Differential findings were maintained at 6- and 12-month followups. Fewer children required removal from TF-CBT due to sexually
inappropriate behaviors. Parental sexual abuse-related emotional
distress and parental support for the child each mediated children’s
outcomes, suggesting the importance of including parents in treat­
Both of these studies demonstrate the feasibility of using manualbased treatments and conducting treatment outcome research with
very young children who have experienced trauma. They also sug­
gest that there is added value in including non-perpetrating parents
in young children’s treatment.
School-aged Children: Parents, Schools, and
Multiple Traumas
School-aged children also demonstrate a variety of problems fol­
lowing trauma exposure. Children with severe, early, and/or chronic
trauma exposure often exhibit serious dysregulation of affect,
behavior, and/or cognition, as well as problems with trust, shame,
self-esteem, and interpersonal relationships.
Many therapists do not typically include parents in children’s treat­
ment. In order to empirically examine this issue, Deblinger et al.
(1996) compared TF-CBT for 100 sexually abused children ages
8-14 years old, provided for children only, parents only, or children
and parents, to a community comparison treatment condition. This
study found that (a) all TF-CBT groups experienced more improve­
ment than the community group; (b) the child treatment groups
showed superior improvement in PTSD symptoms; and (c) the
parent treatment groups showed superior improvement in behavior
and depressive symptoms. Taken together, these results suggest that
optimal improvement occurs by including both child and parent in
TF-CBT treatment.
One of the biggest challenges in child treatment is finding a way for
the children who most need treatment to access it. Some of the most
severely traumatized children never come to mental health clinics.
In an exciting study that showed the feasibility of screening and
treating children in group breakout sessions during the school day,
Stein et al. (2003) compared Cognitive Behavioral Interventions for
Trauma in Schools to a wait-list control condition for 126 6th-grade
children exposed to community violence. The active treatment was
superior to wait-list control in improving PTSD and depressive
symptoms. In a similar study, Berger et al. (2007) compared another
cognitive behavioral group model, Overcoming the Threat of Terror­
ism, to an untreated control group for 142 Israeli children exposed to
terrorism. This study documented that the treatment group expe­
rienced significant decreases in PTSD symptoms compared to the
wait-list group.
The issue of multiply traumatized children is rarely addressed,
primarily because funding agencies thus far have only funded stud­
ies for single types of trauma (for example, sexual abuse, domestic
violence, disaster). However, many if not most children exposed to
trauma experience more than one type of traumatic event. Cohen
et al. (2004) conducted the first multi-site study of 203 sexually
abused children ages 8-14 years old and their parents. Although
sexual abuse was the index trauma, this study also documented
and demonstrated the efficacy of TF-CBT for multiply traumatized
children. More than 90% of the cohort had experienced multiple
trauma exposure, with a mean of 3.6 types of trauma experienced.
Children and parents were randomized to receive TF-CBT or Child
Centered Therapy. The TF-CBT group experienced significantly
greater improvement in PTSD symptoms, depression, behavioral
symptoms, and shame; parents participating in TF-CBT experi­
enced significantly greater improvement in parenting skills, depres­
sion, emotional distress, and support of their children. On fol­
low-up, TF-CBT was found to be more effective for children who
had experienced multiple traumas and higher levels of depressive
symptoms at pre-treatment.
And finally, there is some mixed news about two well-known
but (until last year) not-well-tested treatments in children. Many
questions remain about the value of psychological debriefing for
children compared to adults. Stallard et al. (2006) examined this
model for English children who experienced road traffic accidents
and found that psychological debriefing resulted in neither improve­
ment nor harm compared to an initial assessment interview. Many
practitioners, particularly in Europe, are advocates of Eye Move­
ment Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) for children, despite
a lack of well-designed studies for children. In the first published
study that included essential elements of a randomized controlled
trial (RCT), Ahmad and Sundelin-Wahlsten (2008) adapted EMDR
for Swedish children exposed to a variety of different types of
traumatic experiences and found that it was superior to a wait-list
control for improving PTSD reexperiencing symptoms. The authors
opined that their adaptation’s resemblance to cognitive therapy was
responsible for its effectiveness in these children.
Adolescents and War
Adolescents are more reliable in self-reporting psychological symp­
toms than younger children, but still have developmental differences
from adults. Traumatized youth continue to be at increased risk
for the multiple mental health problems noted previously as well
as substance use disorder, either alone or coexisting with PTSD.
Adolescents are often treated in groups at schools, and thus parents
are not included. Few studies have assessed whether their inclusion
would be beneficial.
Some researchers have studied highly traumatized adolescents af­
fected by war, displacement, and traumatic grief. Bolton et al. (2007)
compared culturally adapted group Interpersonal Psychotherapy to
activity-based manualized creative play therapy or wait-list control
for 314 adolescent survivors of war and displacement in northern
Uganda. Interpersonal Psychotherapy was significantly better than
wait-list or play therapy in decreasing depressive symptoms among
girls but not boys.
Psychotherapy for Adolescents Recovering from Chronic Stress
and Life Skills/ Life Stories are both collecting data to address the
needs of chronically stressed adolescents, many of whom have
severe comorbid psychiatric conditions, family stress, and/or ongo­
ing trauma. KIDNET (a child adaptation of Narrative Exposure
Therapy) has been tested in Europe for refugee children of many
nationalities. Trauma Systems Therapy has been tested for children
with complex needs.
Medication Studies
Among the challenges that remain are testing optimal strategies to
assess and treat children with “complex” trauma, testing treatment
algorithms for children with severe psychiatric comorbidities, and
testing methods for optimally disseminating and implementing the
evidence-based treatments described above in routine community
settings where most traumatized children are currently seen and
served (or not served).
Only two pharmacological RCTs have been conducted specifically
for children with trauma symptoms. Robert et al. (1999) compared
imipramine, a tricyclic antidepressant, to chloral hydrate, a sedative,
in treating acute stress disorder (ASD) symptoms in 2- to 19-year­
old burn patients over 7 days during acute hospitalization. Results of
this double-blind randomized trial demonstrated that imipramine was
superior to chloral hydrate in decreasing ASD symptoms. Concerns
about imipramine causing potentially serious cardiac conduction
delays prevent the widespread use of this medication on an outpatient
basis. Cohen et al. (2007) compared TF-CBT + sertraline to TF-CBT
+ placebo in 24 sexually abused children ages 10-17 years old and
did not find that the addition of sertraline significantly improved the
efficacy of TF-CBT in decreasing PTSD or other symptoms. This
study was underpowered due to the small sample size. Concerns about
selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor medication use in children will
likely limit future research in this regard.
Promising Practices
Many promising practices for treating trauma and trauma-related
symptoms are being developed and pilot-tested currently. Some
of these are described at For example, Kazak
et al. (2004) have provided preliminary data supporting the ef­
ficacy of a group and family intervention for children who have
survived cancer. Layne et al. (2001) developed Trauma and Grief
Components Therapy to address trauma and traumatic grief in
adolescents, which was effective in treating Bosnian adolescents
affected by war and adolescents affected by terrorism. Structured
Twelve years ago, no empirical treatment outcome studies of trau­
matized children existed. Since that time, despite daunting challeng­
es, clinical researchers have provided a wealth of information about
how to treat a wide variety of trauma-related symptoms across the
developmental spectrum, from infancy through adolescence. This
brief review has described some exciting child treatments, diverse
in theoretical models, developmental level, format, and setting,
that have an established evidence base. Therapists now have many
choices when selecting evidence-supported treatments for trauma­
tized children. Therapists should attend to families’ preferences,
cultural differences, and their own strengths and abilities while still
providing scientifically grounded treatments for children who are
suffering the ill effects of trauma.
Foa, E.B., Keane, T.M., Friedman, M.J., & Cohen, J.A. (in press).
Effective treatments for PTSD: Practice guidelines from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (2nd ed.). New York:
Guilford Press.
Ahmad, A., & Sundelin-Wahlsten, V. (2008). Applying EMDR on
children with PTSD. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,
17, 127-132. To create a child-adjusted protocol for eye movement
desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). Child-adjusted modifica­
tions were made in the original adult-based protocol and withinsession measurements, when EMDR was used in a randomized
controlled trial (RCT) on thirty-three 6–16-year-old children with
posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The average treatment effect
size was largest on re-experiencing, and smallest on hyperarousal
scale. The age of the child yielded no significant effects on the de­
pendent variables in the study. (Abstract Adapted)
Amaya-Jackson, L., & DeRosa, R.R. (2007). Treatment considerations for clinicians in applying evidence-based practice to complex presentations in child trauma. Journal of Traumatic Stress,
20, 379-390. Professionals in the child trauma field, eager to bring
volumE 19/no.2 SPRInG 2008
best practices to children and their families who have suffered from
traumatic life events, have developed a number of evidence-based
treatments (EBTs) and promising practices available for adoption
and implementation into community practice. Clinicians and re­
searchers alike have raised questions about if, when, and how these
EBTs can be applied to some of the more complex trauma presen­
tations seen in real world practice. The authors take an evidencebased practice approach, including critical appraisal of clients’
unique needs and preferences, utilizing applicable trauma treatment
core components and current EBTs, and emphasizing monitoring
strategies of client progress, particularly when needing to adapt
EBTs for select clients.
Berger, R., Pat-Horenczyk, R., & Gelkopf, M. (2007). Schoolbased intervention for prevention and treatment of elementarystudents’ terror-related distress in Israel: A quasi-randomized
ABSTRACTS continued
controlled trial. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 20, 541-551. A
school-based intervention for preventing and reducing children’s
posttraumatic stress-related symptoms, somatic complaints, func­
tional impairment, and anxiety due to exposure to terrorism was
evaluated. In a quasi-randomized controlled trial, elementary school
students were randomly assigned to an eight-session structured
program, Overshadowing the Threat of Terrorism, or to a waiting list
control comparison group. Two months postintervention, the study
group reported significant improvement on all measures. The authors
conclude that a school-based universal intervention may significant­
ly reduce posttraumatic stress disorder- (PTSD-) related symptoms
in children repeatedly exposed to terrorist attacks and propose that
it serve as a component of a public mental health approach dealing
with children exposed to ongoing terrorism in a country ravaged by
war and terrorism.
Bolton, P., Bass, J., Betancourt, T., Speelman, L., Onyango, G.,
Clougherty, K.F., et al. (2007). Interventions for depression
symptoms among adolescent survivors of war and displacement in northern Uganda: A randomized controlled trial.
Journal of the American Medical Association, 298, 519-527.
Prior qualitative work with internally displaced persons in
war-affected northern Uganda showed significant mental health
and psychosocial problems. To assess effects of locally feasible
interventions on depression, anxiety, and conduct problem symp­
toms among adolescent survivors of war and displacement in
northern Uganda, a randomized controlled trial was conducted
from May 2005 through December 2005 of 314 adolescents
(aged 14-17 years) in 2 camps for internally displaced persons
in northern Uganda. Participants were randomly allocated: 105,
psychotherapy-based intervention (group interpersonal psycho­
therapy); 105, activity-based intervention (creative play); 104,
wait-control group (individuals wait listed to receive treatment
at study end). Intervention groups met weekly for 16 weeks.
Girls receiving group interpersonal psychotherapy showed
substantial and significant improvement in depression symptoms
compared with controls (12.61 points; 95% CI, 2.09-23.14).
Improvement among boys was not statistically significant (5.72
points; 95% CI, –1.86 to 13.30). Creative play showed no effect
on depression severity (–2.51 points; 95% CI, –11.42 to 6.39).
There were no statistically different improvements in anxiety in
either intervention group. Neither intervention improved conduct
problem or function scores. (Abstract Adapted)
Cohen, J.A., Deblinger, E., Mannarino, A.P., & Steer, R.A. (2004).
A multisite, randomized controlled trial for children with sexual
abuse-related PTSD symptoms. Journal of the American Academy
of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 43, 393-402. To examine the
differential efficacy of trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy
(TF-CBT) and child-centered therapy for treating PTSD and related
emotional and behavioral problems in children who have suffered
sexual abuse.Two hundred twenty-nine 8- to 14-year-old children
and their primary caretakers were randomly assigned to the above
alternative treatments. These children had significant symptoms of
PTSD, with 89% meeting full DSM-IV PTSD diagnostic criteria.
More than 90% of these children had experienced traumatic events
in addition to sexual abuse. Analyses of covariance indicated that
children assigned to TF-CBT, compared to those assigned to childcentered therapy, demonstrated significantly more improvement
with regard to PTSD, depression, behavior problems, shame, and
abuse-related attributions. Similarly, parents assigned to TF-CBT
showed greater improvement with respect to their own self-reported
levels of depression, abuse-specific distress, support of the child,
and effective parenting practices. This study adds to the growing
evidence supporting the efficacy of TF-CBT with children suffer­
ing PTSD as a result of sexual abuse and suggests the efficacy of
this treatment for children who have experienced multiple traumas.
(Abstract Adapted)
Cohen, J.A., & Mannarino, A.P. (1996). A treatment outcome
study for sexually abused preschool children: Initial findings. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent
Psychiatry, 35, 42-50. Treatment outcome for sexually abused
preschool-age children and their parents was assessed, compar­
ing the effectiveness of a cognitive-behavioral intervention to
nondirective supportive treatment. Sixty-seven sexually abused
preschool children and their parents were randomly assigned
to either (1) cognitive-behavioral therapy adapted for sexu­
ally abused preschool children (CBT-SAP) or (2) nondirective
supportive therapy (NST). Treatment consisted of 12 individual
sessions for both the child and parent, monitored for integrity
with the therapeutic model through intensive training and super­
vision, use of treatment manuals, and rating of audiotaped ses­
sions. Within-group comparison of pretreatment and posttreat­
ment outcome measures demonstrated that while the NST group
did not change significantly with regard to symptomatology, the
CBT-SAP group had highly significant symptomatic improve­
ment on most outcome measures. Repeated-measures analyses of
variance demonstrated group × time interactions on some vari­
ables as well. Clinical findings also supported the effectiveness
of the CBT-SAP intervention over NST. (Abstract Adapted)
Cohen, J.A., Mannarino, A.P., Perel, J.M., & Staron, V. (2007).
A pilot randomized controlled trial of combined traumafocused CBT and sertraline for childhood PTSD symptoms.
Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent
Psychiatry, 46, 811-819. To examine the potential benefits of
adding a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, sertraline, versus
placebo, to trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy (TF­
CBT) for improving PTSD and related psychological symptoms
in children who have experienced sexual abuse. Twenty-four
10- to 17-year-old female children and adolescents and their
primary caretakers were randomly assigned to receive TF-CBT +
sertraline or TF-CBT + placebo for 12 weeks. Both groups expe­
rienced significant improvement in posttraumatic stress disorder
and other clinical outcomes from pre- to posttreatment, with
no significant group × time differences between groups except
in Child Global Assessment Scale ratings, which favored the
TF-CBT + sertraline group. Current evidence therefore supports
an initial trial of` TF-CBT or other evidence-supported psycho­
therapy for most children with PTSD symptoms before adding
medication. (Abstract Adapted)
ABSTRACTS continued
Deblinger, E., Lippmann, J., & Steer, R. (1996). Sexually abused
children suffering posttraumatic stress symptoms: Initial treatment outcome findings. Child Maltreatment, 1, 310-321. This study
examined the differential effects of child or non-offending mother
participation in a cognitive behavioral intervention designed to treat
PTSD and other behavioral and emotional difficulties in school-aged
sexually abused children. The 100 participating families were ran­
domly assigned to 1 of 3 experimental treatment conditions — child
only, mother only, or mother and child — or to a community control
condition. Pre- and post-treatment evaluation included standardized
measurement of children’s behavior problems, anxiety, depression,
and PTSD symptoms as well as of parenting practices. Two-by-two
least-squares analyses of covariance were used to compare outcome
measures. Results indicated that mothers assigned to the experi­
mental treatment condition described significant decreases in their
children’s externalizing behaviors and increases in effective parent­
ing skills; their children reported significant reductions in depres­
sion. Children who were assigned to the experimental intervention
exhibited greater reductions in PTSD symptoms than children who
were not. Implications for treatment planning and further clinical
research are discussed.
Kazak, A.E., Alderfer, M.A, Streisand, R., Simms, S., Rourke, M.T.,
Barakat, L.P., et al. (2004). Treatment of posttraumatic stress
symptoms in adolescent survivors of childhood cancer and their
families: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of Family Psychology, 18, 493-504. Posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS), particu­
larly intrusive thoughts, avoidance, and arousal, are among the most
common psychological aftereffects of childhood cancer for survivors
and their mothers and fathers. We conducted a randomized waitlist control trial of a newly developed 4-session, 1-day intervention
aimed at reducing PTSS that integrates cognitive-behavioral and
family therapy approaches—the Surviving Cancer Competently
Intervention Program (SCCIP). Participants were 150 adolescent
survivors and their mothers, fathers, and adolescent siblings. Signifi­
cant reductions in intrusive thoughts among fathers and in arousal
among survivors were found in the treatment group. A multiple
imputations approach was used to address nonrandom missing data
and indicated that treatment effects would likely have been stronger
had more distressed families been retained. The data are supportive
of brief interventions to reduce PTSS in this population and provide
additional support for the importance of intervention for multiple
members of the family.
Layne, C.M., Pynoos, R.S., Saltzman, W.R., Arslanagic, B., Black,
M., Savjack, N., et al. (2001). Trauma/grief-focused group psychotherapy: School-based postwar intervention with traumatized
Bosnian adolescents. Group Dynamics: Theory, research , and
practice, 5, 277-290. Results of a preliminary effectiveness evalu­
ation of a school-based postwar program for war-exposed Bosnian
adolescents are described. The evaluation centered on a manualized
trauma/grief-focused group psychotherapy protocol for war-trauma­
tized adolescents based on 5 therapeutic foci: traumatic experiences,
trauma and loss reminders, postwar adversities, bereavement and the
interplay of trauma and grief, and developmental impact. 55 second­
ary school students (81% girls; age range = 15-19 years, M = 16.81)
volumE 19/no.2 SPRInG 2008
from 10 Bosnian schools participated in the evaluation. Students
completed pregroup and postgroup self-report measures of posttrau­
matic stress, depression, and grief symptoms and postgroup measures
of psychosocial adaptation and group satisfaction. The evaluation
yielded preliminary but promising results, including reduced psycho­
logical distress and positive associations between distress reduction
and psychosocial adaptation.
Lieberman, A.F., Van Horn, P., & Ippen, C.G. (2005).Toward
evidence-based treatment: Child-Parent Psychotherapy with
preschoolers exposed to marital violence. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 44, 1241-1248.
Treatment outcome for preschool-age children exposed to marital
violence was assessed, comparing the efficacy of Child-Parent
Psychotherapy (CPP) with case management plus treatment as usual
in the community. Seventy-five multiethnic preschool mother dyads
from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds were randomly assigned
to (1) CPP or (2) case management plus community referral for
individual treatment. CPP consisted of weekly parent-child sessions
for 1 year monitored for integrity with the use of a treatment manual
and intensive training and supervision. Repeated-measures analysis
of variance demonstrated the efficacy of CPP with significant group
× time interactions on children’s total behavior problems, traumatic
stress symptoms, and diagnostic status, and mothers’ avoidance
symptoms and trends toward significant group × time interactions on
mothers’ PTSD symptoms and general distress. The findings provide
evidence of the efficacy of CPP with this population and highlight
the importance of a relationship focus in the treatment of traumatized
preschoolers. (Abstract Adapted)
Robert, R., Blakeney, P.E., Villarreal, C., Rosenberg, L., & Meyer,
W.J. (1999). Imipramine treatment in pediatric burn patients
with symptoms of acute stress disorder: A pilot study. Journal
of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 38,
873-882. Pediatric burn patients often exhibit acute stress disorder
(ASD) symptoms. Information on psychopharmacological treat­
ment for ASD symptoms in children is scarce. This pilot study used
a prospective, randomized, double-blind design to test whether
thermally injured children suffering from ASD symptoms benefit
from imipramine. Twenty-five children, aged 2 to 19 years, received
imipramine or chloral hydrate for 7 days. A structured interview was
used to assess the presence and frequency of ASD symptoms both
before treatment and 3 times during the treatment period. Eleven girls
and 14 boys participated, with a mean total burn surface of 45% and
mean age of 8 years. Imipramine was more effective than chloral
hydrate in treating ASD symptoms. Five of 13 were positive respond­
ers to chloral hydrate. Ten of 12 were positive responders to low-dose
imipramine. This pilot study suggests a place for cautious initial use
of imipramine to reduce ASD symptoms in burned children. (Ab­
stract Adapted)
Stallard, P., Velleman, R., Salter, E., Howse, I., Yule, W., & Taylor, G.
(2006). A randomised controlled trial to determine the effectiveness of an early psychological intervention with children involved
in road traffic accidents. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 47, 127-134. To determine whether an early intervention using
ABSTRACTS continued
a psychological debriefing format is effective in preventing psycho­
logical distress in child road traffic accident survivors. A randomised
controlled trial was conducted with 158 children aged 7–18. A fol­
low-up assessment completed eight months post accident with 132
(70/82 of the experimental group and 62/76 in the control group)
children in both groups demonstrated considerable improvements.
The early intervention did not result in any additional significant
gains. (Abstract Adapted)
Stein, B.D., Jaycox, L.H., Kataoka, S.H., Wong, M., Tu, W., Elliott,
M.N., et al. (2003). A mental health intervention for schoolchildren exposed to violence: A randomized controlled trial. Journal
of the American Medical Association, 290, 603-611. No randomized
controlled studies have been conducted to date on the effectiveness
of psychological interventions for children with symptoms of PTSD
that have resulted from personally witnessing or being personally
exposed to violence. To evaluate the effectiveness of a collabora­
tively designed school-based intervention for reducing children’s
symptoms of PTSD and depression that has resulted from exposure
to violence, a randomized controlled trial was conducted with sixthgrade students in Los Angeles. Students were randomly assigned to
a 10-session standardized cognitive-behavioral therapy (the Cogni­
tive-Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools) early interven­
tion group (n = 61) or to a wait-list delayed intervention comparison
group (n = 65) conducted by trained school mental health clinicians.
Compared with the wait-list delayed intervention group (no interven­
tion), after 3 months of intervention students who were randomly as­
signed to the early intervention group had significantly lower scores
on symptoms of PTSD and psychosocial dysfunction. Adjusted mean
differences between the 2 groups at 3 months did not show signifi­
cant differences for teacher-reported classroom problems in acting
out, shyness/anxiousness, and learning. A standardized 10-session
cognitive-behavioral group intervention can significantly decrease
symptoms of PTSD and depression in students who are exposed to
violence and can be effectively delivered on school campuses by
trained school-based mental health clinicians. (Abstract Adapted)
CITATIONS Annotated by the Editor
Chemtob, C.M., Nakashima, J.P., Hamada, R.S. (2002). Psychosocial intervention for postdisaster trauma symptoms in elementary school children: A controlled community field study. Archives
of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 156, 211-216. Children with
the highest levels of trauma-related symptoms were randomly as­
signed to 1 of 3 consecutively treated cohorts and to either individu­
al, or group treatment. After treatment, children reported significant
reductions in self-reported trauma-related symptoms. Group and
individual treatments did not differ in efficacy. Symptom reduction
was maintained at the 1-year follow-up.
Cicchetti, D., Rogosch, F.A., & Toth, S.L. (2006). Fostering secure
attachment in infants in maltreating families through preventive
interventions. Development and Psychopathology, 18, 623-649.
In a randomized preventive intervention trial, children in an infant–parent psychotherapy group or psychoeducational parenting
intervention group demonstrated substantial increases in secure at­
tachment, whereas children in the control groups did not.
Cohen, J.A., Mannarino, A.P., & Knudsen, K. (2005). Treating
sexually abused children: 1 year follow-up of a randomized
controlled trial. Child Abuse and Neglect, 29, 135-145. The authors
examined whether the superior effects of trauma-focused cognitivebehavioral therapy (TF-CBT) persist over time. The TF-CBT group
continued to show less PTSD and dissociation than the non-directive
supportive therapy group at 12-month follow-up.
Deblinger, E., Mannarino, A.P., Cohen, J.A., & Steer, R.A. (2006).
A follow-up study of a multisite, randomized, controlled trial
for children with sexual abuse-related PTSD symptoms. Journal
of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 45,
1474-1484. Children and their primary caregivers were assessed 6
and 12 months after their posttreatment evaluations. Children and
caregivers assigned to trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy
(TF-CBT) continued to have less PTSD, shame, and distress at
6- and 12-month assessments, compared to participants assigned to
child-centered therapy.
Fantuzzo, J., Sutton-Smith, B., Atkins, M., Meyers, R., Stevenson,
H., Coolahan, K., et al. (1996). Community-based resilient peer
treatment of withdrawn maltreated preschool children. Journal
of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 64, 1377-1386. Withdrawn
children were paired with resilient peers in the natural classroom
under the supervision of a parent assistant. Intervention children
showed a significant increase in positive interactive peer play and
a decrease in solitary play. Treatment gains in social interactions
were validated 2 months following treatment.
Goenjian, A.K., Karayan, I., Pynoos, R.S., Minassian, D., Najarian,
L.M., Steinberg, A.M., et al. (1997). Outcome of psychotherapy
among early adolescents after trauma. American Journal of
Psychiatry, 154, 536-542. After the 1988 earthquake in Armenia,
the effectiveness of brief trauma/grief-focused psychotherapy
was examined by comparing treated and not-treated adolescents
pre- and post-intervention. Trauma/grief-focused psychotherapy
was found to reduce PTSD symptoms and prevent the worsening of
Kataoka, S.H., Stein, B.D., Jaycox, L.H., Wong, M., Escudero, P.,
Tu, W., Zaragoza, C., & Fink, A. (2003). A school-based
mental health program for traumatized Latino immigrant
children. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 42, 311-318. The effects of a school mental health
program for Latino immigrant students exposed to community
violence were tested in a quasi-experimental design. Students in
the intervention group showed greater improvement in PTSD and
depressive symptoms than did wait-list students after adjusting for
relevant covariates.
CITATIONS Annotated by the Editor continued
King, N.J., Tonge, B.J., Mullen, P., Myerson, N., Heyne, D., Rollings,
S., et al. (2000). Treating sexually abused children with posttraumatic stress symptoms: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of the
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 39, 1347­
1355. Sexually abused children (n = 36) were randomly assigned
to a child-alone cognitive behavioral treatment condition, a family
treatment condition, or a wait-list control condition. Compared with
controls, children who received treatment exhibited significant im­
provements in PTSD symptoms and self-reports of fear and anxiety.
In general, parental involvement did not improve the efficacy of
cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Najavits, L.M., Gallop, R.J., & Weiss, R.D. (2006). Seeking Safety
therapy for adolescent girls with PTSD and substance use disorder: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Behavioral Health
Services and Research, 33, 453-463. This randomized, controlled
trial evaluated a manualized psychotherapy, Seeking Safety (SS),
for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance use disorder
(SUD) in adolescent females. To our knowledge, no prior study has
evaluated any psychotherapy designed for this population. SS was
compared to treatment as usual (TAU) for 33 outpatients, at intake,
end of treatment, and 3 months follow-up. SS evidenced significantly
better outcomes than TAU in a variety of domains at posttreatment,
including substance use and associated problems, some trauma-relat­
ed symptoms, cognitions related to SUD and PTSD, and several areas
of pathology not targeted in the treatment (e.g., anorexia, somatiza­
tion). Effect sizes were generally in the moderate to high range. Some
gains were sustained at follow-up. SS appears a promising treatment
for this population, but needs further study and perhaps additional
clinical modification
Saxe, G.N., Ellis, B.H., Fogler, J., Hansen, S., & Sorkin, B. (2005)
Comprehensive care for traumatized children: An open trial
examines treatment using trauma system therapy. Psychiatric
Annals, 35, 443-448. This article describes the results of an open trial
(no control group) of trauma systems therapy, which is designed to
address both a child’s trauma-related symptoms and the perpetuat­
ing factors in the social environment. Children showed significant
improvements (with modest effect sizes) in PTSD, behavioral and
emotional regulation, and social environment.
Seedat, S., Stein, D.J., Ziervogel, C., Middleton, T., Kaminer, D.,
Emsley, R.A., et al. (2002). Comparison of response to a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor in children, adolescents, and
adults with posttraumatic stress disorder. Journal of Child and
Adolescent Psychopharmacology, 12, 37-46. This study compared
outcomes in an 8-week open trial of citalopram (an SSRI, 20-40
mg/day) in 24 children/adolescents and 14 adults with PTSD. Both
adolescents and adults had significant reductions in symptoms.
Smith, P., Yule, W., Perrin, S., Tranah, T., Dalgleish, T., & Clark,
D.M. (2007). Cognitive-behavioral therapy for PTSD in children
and adolescents: A preliminary randomized controlled trial.
Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 46, 1051-1061. Children and young people (8-18 years old) were
randomly allocated to a 10-week course of CBT or waitlist. Partici­
pants who received CBT showed significantly greater improvement
in symptoms of PTSD, depression, and anxiety, with significantly
better functioning. Effects of CBT were partially mediated by
changes in maladaptive cognitions, as predicted by cognitive models
of PTSD.
Trowell, J., Kolvin, I., Weeramanthri, T., Sadowski, H., Berelow­
itz, M., Glasser, D., et al. (2002). Psychotherapy for sexually
abused girls: Psychopathological outcome findings and patterns
of change. British Journal of Psychiatry, 180, 234-247. Sexually
abused girls were randomly assigned to individual or group psycho­
therapy. Both treatment groups showed a equivalent reduction in
general symptoms of psychopathology and an improvement in func­
tioning. Individual therapy led to a greater improvement in PTSD.
Varni, J.W., Katz, E.R., Colegrove, R., & Dolgin, M. (1993). The
impact of social skills training on the adjustment of children
with newly diagnosed cancer. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 18,
751-767. Children with newly diagnosed cancer who were assigned
to an experimental Social Skills Training treatment group showed
greater change in classmate and teacher social support by 9-month
follow-up than did children assigned to a standard treatment group.
Their parents reported a decrease in internalizing and externalizing
behavior problems and an increase in school competence.
We have dedicated this issue of The PTSD Research Quarterly to current therapies and practices in
treating PTSD and associated symptoms in children.
The next installment of the RQ will be a double issue exploring recent PTSD literature on psy­
chopharmacology and psychotherapy research relating to adult populations; the emphasis will
be on randomized controlled trials. Our guest editors will be Matthew J. Friedman, MD, PhD,
and Paula P. Schnurr, PhD. Dr. Friedman will present a bibliography of readings on psychophar­
macology and Dr. Schnurr a bibliography of psychotherapy research. Each will present a brief
guide to the approach and understanding of the literature they have chosen.
A separate column will address current practice guidelines.
volumE 19/no.2 SPRInG 2008
National Child Traumatic Stress Network
Improving access to care, treatment, and services for traumatized children and adolescents
Cybele M. Merrick
Since its establishment by Congress in 2001, the National Child
Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) has been at the forefront of rais­
ing the standard of care and improving access to services for trau­
matized children, their families, and communities across the United
States. Co-housed at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Clinic and the Duke
University Medical Center, the National Center for Child Traumatic
Stress (NCCTS) coordinates and leads the work of the NCTSN, in
collaboration with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
Administration’s Center for Mental Health Services.
The NCCTS and the National Center for PTSD have become strate­
gic partners in their work. The centers have worked together in the
area of response to mass disasters and terrorism, jointly producing
the manual Psychological First Aid: Field Operations Guide, and the
video series, Responding to Crisis in the Aftermath of Disasters. A
staff member whose time is shared between the two centers contributes
to the PILOTS database (NCPTSD) and website management, product
development, and information services (NCCTS).
The work of NCCTS encompasses seven program areas: Data and
Evaluation, National Resource Center, Network Liaisons, Service
Systems, Training and Implementation, Terrorism and Disaster, and
Treatment and Interventions.
The Data and Evaluation Program provides administrative and scientific
leadership and technical expertise for the NCCTS and NCTSN in all
aspects of data collection and utilization. The Core Data Set—which
captures a host of data on children seen by Network centers—is a key
part of this program. The communications, public awareness, informa­
tion management, product development, and marketing functions of the
Network are the responsibility of the National Resource Center. Network
Liaisons foster connections among Network member sites, and between
the sites and the National Center. The Service Systems Program works
across various child-serving systems, delivering education and train­
ing on the impact of trauma to child welfare, law enforcement, juvenile
justice, and other systems, and encourages them to work in a culturallycompetent manner. The Training and Implementation program facili­
National Center for PTSD (116D)
vA medical and Regional office Center
215 North Main Street
White River Junction, VT 05009-0001
tates the adoption of evidence-based treatments through educational
initiatives directed at mental health providers both within and outside
the Network. The National Center’s Terrorism and Disaster Program
works to strengthen preparedness for and response to mass disasters and
terrorism, with a focus on the psychological well-being of children and
families. The Treatment and Interventions Program promotes the de­
velopment, evaluation, and adoption of evidence-informed assessment,
treatment, and prevention strategies for traumatized children.
National Center program directors and Network Liaisons are also key
players in the activities of Network collaborative groups. Collabora­
tive groups are cross-Network teams of personnel from Network sites
and the National Center who work together on a given issue related to
child trauma. Currently there are 20 collaborative groups focusing on
such areas as affected populations, trauma types, interventions, and
service systems (juvenile justice, education, child welfare).
Collaborative groups have long played a central role in the development
of the many published materials that the NCTSN has released. In con­
junction with the National Resource Center, collaborative groups have
produced a wide variety of products for professional audiences, care
givers, and policy makers. Important recent products include the Child
Welfare Trauma Training Toolkit, Service Systems Briefs, The Promise
of Trauma-focused Therapy for Childhood Sexual Abuse, and Pathways
to Partnerships with Youth and Families in the NCTSN. A complete
list of NCTSN products, arranged by intended audience, is available at
Whether they are facing individual traumas, community violence, or
devastating natural disasters, children and their families—and the mental
health and child-serving professionals who work with them—can turn to
NCCTS and NCTSN as trusted resources. Further information about the
Network can be found at its website:
Cybele Merrick, MA MS, is the Project Manager for Information and Resources at the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress. She is a librarian
by trade and also assists in the production of the PILOTS Database. She can
be contacted at [email protected]